E-bikes are gaining in popularity, especially with local police departments

E-bikes are gaining in popularity, especially with local police departments

Until recently, e-bikers were considered cheaters. No longer.

While e-bikes make it easier to overcome the “too” barriers - too far, too hard, too hilly - they've gone mainstream in the biking community. As one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycle market, e-bikes have gained acceptance while dropping that cheater image.

Still, negative impressions linger. Fires caused by lithium-ion batteries have raised alarms in major cities like New York and London. These batteries, common to many electric-assist vehicles, not just e-bikes, are especially valuable to delivery workers eking out a living in a post-shutdown economy.

Fires can occur when batteries are damaged or charged incorrectly, as when incompatible charging components are used, all very avoidable disasters per local e-bike retailers.

Sharon Kaminecki, owner of Earth Rider Cycling in Chicago said, “E-bike battery fires are a popular topic in the industry now. People who deliver have limited means and use low cost e-bikes with cheap batteries. They swap charging cords and batteries with their friends.

“We're told that e-bikes are designed and tested as a system, often with proprietary components. You should never swap components unless it is like-for-like or with approval from the manufacturer,” Kaminecki said.

Matt Sammons, co-owner of Palatine's SamCycle Electric Bikes, echoes Kaminecki's advice.

“I tell customers to use the correct charger for the bike, the one that comes with it. Don't overcharge the battery - no more than 12 hours - not in extreme heat over 90 degrees or in a garage, or if the battery is cold,” Sammons said.

“All e-bikes we sell have batteries tested by independent labs, and some are UL (Underwriters Labs) certified,” Kaminecki said. “Even with that, we tell customers it's best practice not to leave the battery charging overnight or when they aren't at home, just in case, and to bring it in if damaged.”

Officer Pete Bognar of Wauconda is ready to roll on the police department's e-bike provided by Main Street Outfitter. Courtesy of Wauconda Police Department

Growing in popularity with police

Besides enticing the general public, e-bikes are multiplying among suburban police patrols. A quick 2021 survey yielded several departments with bike patrol units, but only two owning e-bikes, Arlington Heights and Deerfield.

Since then, numbers have tripled to include Bartlett, Highland Park, Mount Prospect and Wauconda.

E-bike costs - purchase and training - remain high, so departments have been creative in budgeting. Per police Chief David Wermes, Wauconda's bike patrol unit includes a Trek and Cannondale, plus a Pedego e-bike.

“Our local bike shop (Main Street Outfitters) loaned the police e-bike to our agency,” Wermes said.

According to Officer Greg Sill, Mount Prospect recently “added three e-bikes to our existing fleet of six traditional police bikes.”

Police department seizure funds were used for the purchase.

Deerfield bike officers share bicycle and pedestrian safety tips at the farmers market. Courtesy of Deerfield Police Department

In addition, Sill appreciates the cooperation from neighboring Arlington Heights Sgt. Russell Mandel, who will train Mount Prospect officers on e-bikes in June, saving travel costs. Mandel is certified as a mountain bike and e-bike instructor by the International Police Mountain Biking Association.

Bartlett Chief Geoffrey Pretkelis reports four e-bikes purchased in the last two years, with any in-house trained officer able to operate them.

“During warmer months, officers are encouraged to ride the e-bikes in the neighborhoods, business areas and parks to interact with the community,” Pretkelis said.

Commander Rob Sweeney notes they allow for positive, nonenforcement community contacts.

Deerfield Commander Oliver Cachola affirms that community connection, touting their “vital role in maintaining and increasing positive community relations between the Deerfield Police Department and residents, promoting our community policing philosophy.”

He reports adding a third e-bike to their eight-bike patrol unit since 2021.

Highland Park Communications Manager Amanda Bennett said the police department expects two more e-bikes added in the coming weeks, making three in their patrol unit.

E-Bike credits

Beyond their popularity, e-bikes offer environmentally favorable, low carbon alternatives to motorized vehicles. Like EVs, e-bike purchases are also gaining traction regarding tax credits and rebates.

President Biden's original “Build Back Better” legislation contained a 30% tax credit for e-bike purchases, now resurrected in the E-BIKE Act legislation (H.R. 1685) introduced by Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-California) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in March (S. 881).

Both limit bike costs to $5,000 ($8,000 filing jointly) and include a sliding scale credit reduction based on buyer income.

States have also entertained similar legislation, including Illinois with four e-bike bills introduced in March. State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid's (D-21) bill (HB3089) offers a tax credit equal to 50% of the cost of qualified e-bikes, up to $1,000. HB3447, introduced by assistant Majority Leader Rep. Kam Buckner (D-26), provides a schedule of rebates based on individual income, with point-of-sale rebates for bike shops in low-income neighborhoods.

State Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-8) introduced SB1700 to award rebates up to $750, while State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-7) filed SB2015 to provide rebates based on eligibility requirements.

On April 29, groups of volunteers will conduct annual trail cleanups along multiple segments of the 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path, like this Villa Park group in 2022. Courtesy of Allison Seei

Clear the path

In cooperation with Friends of the Great Western Trails, DuPage County and other partner organizations, the Illinois Prairie Path nonprofit corporation has scheduled its annual cleanup for 9 a.m. Saturday, April 29.

If Earth Day events passed you by, you can still offer environmental stewardship at 19 different sites along the 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path. Register at Site coordinators will provide time and location to meet.

Ken McClurg, IPPc director, notes the cleanup “will be a big day, with multiple groups cleaning various stretches of the Illinois Prairie Path and the Great Western Trails. It's our largest volunteer event.”

The IPPc celebrates its 60th anniversary as one of the earliest rails-to-trails conversion projects in the country.

Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at

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